1 Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you:…
The apostle is writing on the eve of the dreadful persecution of the Church by Nero, which was already beginning to be felt. The increased bitterness of those around them, and probably dark intimations from their teachers that the evil times predicted by Christ were nigh, tended to awaken very gloomy forebodings in the hearts of the converts. No wonder if they thought the trial strange; even to us with our larger knowledge it always seems strange that the good should suffer, and often so severely. Yet God says, "Think it not strange, but rejoice," and that word "rejoice" is the key-word to the passage. There are three reasons here for this rejoicing.
I. THERE IS THE JOY OF FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST IN SUFFERING. Suffering for righteousness brings us into fellowship with Christ.
1. It is suffering for his sake. The persecuted partake of Christ's sufferings. Some of our Lord's sufferings were peculiarly his own, and could not be shared; but we participate in his sufferings when we suffer in the interests of his Church, the interests of righteousness, for the spread of his kingdom. Suffering is always suffering, but when we know it is for that for which our Lord suffered, and on which his heart is set, it is suffering glorified.
2. It is suffering by his side. We are never more conscious of his presence and sympathy than in suffering voluntarily endured for his cause. None ever suffered for Christ without loving him more.
3. It is suffering preparatory to his glory. Some of Christ's servants do not think much of his coming again. That may be due to their not having fulfilled the tasks he gave them. His servants know when they have really tried to please him, and he knows it too, and this gives them confidence towards him, and makes them eager for his appearing.
II. THERE IS THE JOY OF GLORIFYING THE SPIRIT IN SUFFERING.
1. Be sure that yours is really Christian suffering. "Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as a busybody." (Strange company that, by the way, for busybodies!) Is it not strange that Peter should suggest that Church-members might be guilty of such things? The fact is that the early Church contained many from the criminal classes, and some of them were too easily admitted to fellowship; their adhesion to Christ being simply an endeavor to atone for a life of misdeeds while the misdeeds secretly remained. Let us see to it that we do not take to ourselves the comforts of those who suffer for Christ's sake, when we really suffer for our sins' sake. It is not the suffering that makes the martyr, but the cause of it.
2. Yours be Christian suffering, its endurance glorifies the Spirit. "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you." The word "resteth" here is the same word our Lord uses when he says, "Come unto me and rest." On the seventh day God rested from his works, but be also rested in them: "He saw all that he had made, and behold it was very good." God in his works was satisfied. So the Spirit of God rests on the Christian martyr, for he sees his work there - the fruit of the sacred love he has inspired, of the sustaining grace he has imparted; and the gracious Spirit reposes in the glorious result of his mission.
3. Reproach becomes our glory rather than our shame. "If any man suffer as a Christian," etc. Christian was a name of scorn at first, and Peter says, "Be not ashamed, glorify God in this name; respond to the reproach of earth by praise of heaven." Why should we do this? Because in us at that moment the Spirit of God finds a resting-place. Do we not often forget the claims that gracious Spirit has on our service and our love? We owe all that Christ is to us, and all that the Father is to us, to him.
III. THERE IS THE JOY OF TRUSTING THE FATHER. "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it -first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator." "The time is come that judgment," etc. We understand these words when we remember that the Epistle was written before the awful judgment which terminated in the destruction of the ecclesiastical and civil polity of the Jews, which our Lord had foretold: "wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes," as "the beginning of sorrows;" and added to his people, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all men for my Name's sake." "And if the righteous scarcely [with difficulty] be saved," etc. What fires of discipline, and what deep waters of sorrow, they have to go through to enter the kingdom] If this is what God's children endure, what of those who are not his? If so heavy is the hand of chastening, educating love, what will the hand of judgment and wrath be! Christian, shrinking under the one, remember that you are delivered from the other. Trustfully acquiesce in the endurance of Christian suffering. This suffering is according to God's will, the other is not, and can only be unmingled curse; but that of his people in the way of righteousness is his choice, he selects that, presides over it, tempers it, and leads it on to unmingled blessing. Here, then, is a fresh possibility of joy in suffering for Christ - the joy of resting in the will of the Father. I)o we know anything of suffering for righteousness' sake? Other sufferings we are each familiar with, but have we suffered for Christ? do we live a life of voluntary suffering for him? If not, I might say we have reason in that to wonder whether we are his followers at all. If we are strangers to Christian suffering, we are strangers to the deepest Christian joy. Christian joy is a flower which bears its fairest blossoms only when it grows on the grave where self lies buried. - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: